Firebirds run past Spartans 72-62

Ray Maloney, Sports
Devils Lake’s Sarah Schafer (35) goes up for two of her 10 points during the first half of Friday’s game against Fargo North at the Devils Lake Sports Center. Schafer was one of three Firebirds in double figures as Devils Lake knocked off the Spartans 72-62.

Hannah Elshaug was certainly the conductor of this runaway train. But it took some time for her and her Devils Lake teammates to leave the station.

Devils Lake found itself in a hole for the first six minutes before finally pulling even and then sprinting past Fargo North 72-62 on Friday at the Devils Lake Sports Center. The triumph avenged a 64-59 loss to the Spartans in the season opener in December in Fargo.

"We were very sluggish to start things out," said Devils Lake coach Scott Privratsky after watching his team win for the second consecutive outing after dropping three games two weeks ago and falling out of the state poll.

"But, the (players) worked hard and we got some good things out of several different people," the Devils Lake coach added.

Devils Lake managed to put the game away by holding Fargo North standout Kira Larson scoreless for more than nine minutes in the second half as the Firebirds began to pull away from a 39-33 halftime advantage.

Larson, who scored 16 points in the first half for the Spartans, opened the second half with a basket at 16:51. Teammate Alyssa Dehne followed less than one minute later and the Spartans found themselves back in the contest at 39-37.

"We became more aware of Larson driving down the lane," Privratsky said, "and we did a decent job of finding Dehne wherever she was on the floor."

The Firebirds certainly did. They would not allow the Spartans to get any closer the rest of the way.

Elshaug connected on six straight points for the Firebirds to move Devils Lake comfortably back in front. Her field goal at 14:02 put Devils Lake in front 45-41 after Dehne had connected on a pair of field goals to keep the Spartans within striking distance.

A pair of free throws by Steph Mertens at 13:24 and a 3-pointer from Mackenzie Wade from the left wing with 11:23 remaining seemed to break the backs of the Spartans as Devils Lake increased its lead to 50-41 as Fargo North went nearly four minutes without scoring.

Mia Lopez and Dehne sparked the Spartans to a short rally that brought the visitors to within 52-49 with just over nine minutes left in the game.

That was when Devils Lake virtually iced the game as the Firebirds went on a 15-4 run that began with Sarah Schafer, Chelsea Kurtz and Elshaug finding the hoop within a span of one minute to give the Firebirds a 58-49 cushion. It ended when Wade dished inside to a wide open  Elshaug and Madison Walford drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Walford's trey came less than a minute after coming off the bench and picking up two fouls in a span of nine seconds.

"(Walford) did what we needed her to do," Privratsky said. "She needed to give Kurtz a breather ... and in the process she delivered a huge basket for us when we needed it."

Walford's basket, which came with 4:04 left in the game and put the Firebirds in front 67-53, proved to be the final field goal of the night for the Firebirds. Devils Lake connected on five of six free throws, including four of four from Mertens, in the final 30 seconds to get the win.

Elshaug was one of three Devils Lake players in double figures. The six-foot senior, poured in a game-high 25 points. Mertens and Schafer also finished in double figures with 17 and 10 points, respectively. Kurtz grabbed a game-high nine rebounds for Devils Lake, which improved to 7-4 in the Eastern Dakota Conference and 8-5 on the season with the win.

Fargo North also placed a trio of players in double digits. Larson led the way with 22 points, while Dehne added 15 points and Lopez ended the game with 10 points for the Spartans, who dropped to 4-6 in the league and 5-7 overall.

Fargo North (62): Kira Larson 22, Alyssa Dehne 15, Mia Lopez 10, Emma Bergeron 6, McKenzie Leier 4, Cammy Carlson 3, Courtney Johnson 2.

Devils Lake (72): Hannah Elshaug 25, Steph Mertens 17, Sarah Schafer 10, Mackenzie Wade 7, Chelsea Kurtz 6, Kelley Olson 4, Madison Walford 3.

3-pointers: Fargo North 1 (Carlson), Devils Lake 4 (Wade 1, Olson 1, Walford 1, Mertens 1). Rebounds: Fargo North 36 (Larson 7), Devils Lake 43 (Kurtz 9, Elshaug 8, Mertens 7). Fouls: Fargo North 21, Devils Lake 15. Fouled out: none. Assists: Fargo North 7 (Dehne 4), Devils Lake 13 (Wade 4, Mertens 3, Schafer 3). Steals: Fargo North 18 (Dehne 2, Leier 2), Devils Lake 20 (Wade 3, Elshaug 2, Schafer 2). Blocked shots: Fargo North 0, Devils Lake 3 (Elshaug 2, Wade 1). Turnovers: Fargo North 21, Devils Lake 18.

Halftime: Devils Lake 39-33.